All the papers were buzzing since last night about a possible prosecution in the 1985 cold case of UK Police Officer Keith Blakelock.
Officer Blakelock and his colleague Pc Coombes was was attacked by 300-strong mob as he tried to protect firefighters who were tackling a supermarket blaze at the height of the riot known as the Broadwater Farm Riots on October 6, 1985. After stumbling, the father of three was surrounded by a mob screaming “Kill the pig”. He was stabbed dozens of times. The machete-wielding killers then tried to decapitate him. A later trial heard the mob intended to parade the constable’s head on a pole to taunt other officers.
The riots, in which gangs attacked police, looted and set fires, were some of the worst the capital had seen for decades. The unrest was sparked by the death of Cynthia Jarrett, 49, who collapsed during a police raid on her home.
Pc Blakelock suffered more than 40 stab wounds, including some that the pathologist determined came from a machete or an axe. As he was dragged off by colleagues who bravely returned to help him, a 6in kitchen knife was still embedded to the hilt in his neck. He died later at North Middlesex Hospital.
In an interview, Pc Coombes relived that night: “Richard Coombes needs only to close his eyes. When he does, his face contorts. His hands, instinctively protective, are drawn to his face; to where a deeply ingrained, ragged scar runs from his right eye to his throat.
Mr Coombes is in another place. One shrouded in darkness and shadow. One in which he, holding only his police officer’s truncheon and a short shield, is surrounded by a baying mob brandishing knives, machetes, blow torches and petrol bombs. His attackers are faceless, he sees only a swirling mass of balaclava-clad heads, their slits revealing hate-filled eyes and snarling mouths yelling: “Kill the pigs, kill the pigs.”
Before him, curled on the ground and spurting blood, lies a fellow constable. The writhing body is surrounded by the mob, battering and kicking and stabbing: reducing him to bloodied pulp. He sees one man raise a machete. He runs forward . . .
He pauses, then adds: “There is no doubt: I was next on their list. Once they’d hacked Keith to death, they were going to do the same to me. I can try to rationalise it, tell myself it was the uniform they were attacking. But I can’t convince myself of that. It was personal. That man . . . those men . . . they butchered Keith Blakelock . . . and then they wanted to butcher me.”
A few years ago, acting on a tip from a new witness, police dug up a back garden at a house near the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham. They found a rusting machete. It could be the murder weapon. If the lab found DNA on the machete, we might be able to get more answers in this case.
The buzz about a possible prosecution leads me to believe that they have finally been able to connect more dots including the machete, possibly DNA and the tips from new witnesses who finally stepped forward to tell police what they know.
The papers confirm this: “New forensic tests were carried out on Pc Blakelock’s flame-retardant overalls, which for years had been on show to criminologists and trainee police officers at Scotland Yard’s “Black Museum”. The garment and more than a dozen murder weapons – several machetes and a kitchen knife found embedded up to the hilt in the constable’s neck – were analysed using updated DNA techniques for the first time. Evidence gathered by the new inquiry is also believed to include significant new witness statements.”
Charges are expected soon against a man who at the time of the Broadwater Farm Riots was not yet 18. His identity is confidential for now. The new suspect is not one of the three men previously convicted and subsequently cleared.
To be continued!